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MANILA, Philippines – The Wangs-Letran Couriers continued climbing up towards the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup playoffs as they denied a furious Go for Gold-CSB comeback attempt, 91-88, at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao, Monday, March 12.
Go for Gold acquired the services of sharpshooting UP Fighting Maroons captain and Gilas 2023 cadet Paul Desiderio prior to this game, boosting a formidable CSB backcourt already featuring fellow Gilas cadet Jayjay Alejandro.
After a close first quarter which saw Letran lead by two, 20-18, Desiderio nailed his first D-League points off a corner three midway through the second. He then sank an and-one bucket plus one more triple to help CSB have a 48-43 lead at the half.
However, the time-tested teamwork of Jeff Napa’s boys proved too much in the second half, as a 13-3 Letran run orchestrated by Alex Mandreza and Bong Quinto materialized into a 56-53 lead for Wangs. They then ended the quarter on another 8-2 run for the 68-62 lead heading into the fourth.
The Couriers scooted away even more in the final frame, courtesy of an 11-2 run from JP Calvo and Bonbon Batiller for the 79-64 lead. However, Haruna and Desiderio exploded down the stretch for the 19-6 run that evaporated Letran’s lead to two, 85-83. This included multiple fastbreak buckets and a pull-up trey from the UP captain.
Calvo and Alejandro then exchanged two free-throws ending in an 87-85 lead for Letran. Rey Publico calmly sank two more penalty shots, 89-85, but Alejandro responded with a clutch running three, 89-88. Quinto was fouled off the inbound and drained two charities of his own for the 91-88 lead. With a chance to send the game to overtime, Desiderio fumbled the rock and instead passed it to Justin Gutang, who clanked off the potential game-saving triple.
Despite the close loss, Desiderio maintained a positive outlook for the contending Go for Gold’s remaining games. He tallied 15 points on 3/7 shooting from beyond the arc including two rebounds and two blocks.
“Syempre, kapaan pa ako sa mga teammates ko,” he said. “First game ko sa kanila at two days practice lang ako sa kanila, so hopefully next game, makabawi kami.”
(Of course, I’m still getting a feel for my teammates. It’s my first game with them and I’ve only had two days’ practice, so hopefully next game, we get back up.)
Being a very late addition for Go for Gold, Desiderio explained that it was studies first before basketball.
“Syempre inuna ko muna ‘yung academics ko,” he said. “Ngayon medyo okay na, patapos na ‘yung midterms namin so nagpaalam na ako kay Coach Bo [Perasol].”
(Of course, I prioritized my academics. Now, our midterms are over so I asked permission from Coach Bo.)
Aside from Desiderio, Haruna led the CSB rally with a game-high 20 points and 7 boards. Alejandro and Gutang added 13 apiece in the losing effort.
Meanwhile, on the winning side, Quinto led the way with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Publico followed him up with 14 points, 9 boards and 2 rejections.
Wangs-Letran (91): Quinto 17, Publico 14, Batiller 12, Mandreza 10, Muyang 8, Fajarito 8, Balanza 7, Ambohot 7, Calvo 6, Taladua 2, Yu 0
Go for Gold-CSB (88): Haruna 20, Desiderio 15, Alejandro 13, Gutang 13, Leutcheu 8, Dixon 8, Naboa 5, Salem 3, Pasturan 3, Gaco 0
Quarter Scores: 20-18, 43-48, 68-62, 91-88
Standings (as of March 12, 2018)
Marinerong Pilipino 5-2
Gamboa-St. Clare 3-2
Go For Gold-CSB 5-5